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Long Term Health Benefits of Walking Kokoda

December 18, 2014

In this interview Globe Medical Director, Dr Bob Kass discusses some of the hidden benefits of booking an appointment with a travel medicine specialist.

Topics Discussed:

0.00 - What Bob has often observed when seeing males aged between 30 and 45 years old.

0.33 - How one of Bob’s patients who managed to lose 25kgs prior to walking the Kokoda Track

2.06 - How travel medicine plays a wider role in a patients health and lifestyle 

3.15 - Participating in walking groups and the social side to getting fit



Q: Now you’ve explained to me how you’ve taken an educative approach to travel medicine, is there any other advantages to that approach that you’ve seen over the years?

I mean I think this is a really important part of travel medicine and one of the things that I have noted is that particularly when I see males aged between, say 30 and 45, it becomes clear to me that it is very rarely that they have seen local doctors. I see this particularly when I’m looking after travellers walking Kokoda. It’s not unusual for me to have someone walking Kokoda who comes in to get their immunisations and antimalarials and the first thing that occurs to me is that they’re over 100kgs.

And not so long ago, I had a fellow who tipped the scales at 117kgs and I said look, I don’t think Kokoda is suitable for you. If you want to be walking when you’re 50 or 60 I think that really carrying 117Kgs up 6000 metres and down 6000 metres you know, over an 8 day trip is not a very good idea for you. This fellow took it on board and I was very impressed, and he said to me, well doc what weight do you think I should be? And I said well I’d love to see you start the trip at no more than 95kgs thinking that’s the end of the story.

Well about 8 weeks later, the guy comes back in and he was 92kgs, so he had lost 25kgs, he worked in the oil and gas industry, ate pies and pasties and drank a lot of beer and he did very little in the way of exercise. In that 2 months from the time that I saw him, he had worked absolutely on his health, together with the cookware he was working, having smaller plate sizes, changing his diet and doing a lot more exercise and no alcohol, so I was quite impressed and this is not an unusual thing that we see.

Q: So you (as a travel medicine specialist) are playing a wider role?

That’s right, yeah, so it’s not just prevention regarding things that might happen through travel, this is about general living and again, I think this is the kind of thing that any general practitioner would just love to see. And when you say this person, and you see their change in their body shape, women who finally get a waist back while they’re training to climb Kilimanjaro or walk the Camino, something like that. Suddenly, they’ve got a lot of self confidence back and so it’s not about travel medicine, it’s certainly about trying to get people to change their lifestyle and travel is just part of it but the long term benefit from a health point of view is fantastic.

Most of these people who put the time and effort in to getting fit to go to Everest Base Camp or to walk Kokoda or climb Kilimanjaro most of them maintain their weight because they a see a difference between being healthy and being able to do these things and otherwise and the other really nice thing that I find, particularly here in Adelaide, is that when you get people who are wanting to travel and have a health component to getting them into walking groups, you are getting them into the social side as well, and that social side is good for people as well. 

We have some wonderful groups here in Adelaide that walk every Saturday and Sunday morning and occasionally a night during the week and to try and move them into these groups is very beneficial.